Russian sambo specialist Alexander Yakovlev took on 18-fight UFC veteran Demian Maia in his promotional debut, and the results were disastrous for the Octagon newcomer.
Maia, who was ranked No. 8 in the welterweight division heading into the fight, offered Yakovlev a great opportunity to launch himself right into the thick of things at 170 pounds, but the Russian failed to mount any offense and was dominated for the bout's duration.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist dropped Yakovlev with a big left hand in Round 1 and moved straight to mount, where he went to work with some heavy ground-and-pound. Yakovlev survived, though, and the fight went to a second round.
Again, Maia took the fight to the mat and secured the mount, but Yakovlev reversed position and ended up on top. It was all for naught in the end, though, as Maia escaped and pushed the fight to a third round, where he again controlled the fight from the mount.
In all, this was a standard-affair Maia fight. It was largely contested on the ground, and there aren't too many welterweights in the world who will come out victorious against him in a grappling contest.
What We'll Remember About This Fight
In his UFC debut, Yakovlev survived Maia's mount three times, once in each round.
Despite losing, Yakovlev showed that he can hold off an elite grappler on the ground, and if he can round out his game, he may prove to be a worthy contender in the stacked 170-pound class.
Otherwise, this was a standard Maia fight. The Brazilian got the fight to the ground on multiple occasions, and he won the battle there as he usually does.
What We Learned About Maia
Maia dropped Yakovlev early in the fight, showing that he has knockdown power in his hands. We hadn't previously seen that from him, so it's good to see that he's adding some pizzazz to his pedestrian stand-up attack.
Besides that, we saw Maia give up a takedown and fail to capitalize from the mount thrice in this fight, so we arguably unlearned a few things about his unstoppable ground game in that regard.
He dominated a lesser grappler on the ground—nothing new to see here.
What We Learned About Yakovlev
Yakovlev took Maia down and survived the mount on multiple occasions, showing that he can hang with one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world at his own game. While he never won any grappling exchanges, spending several minutes underneath Maia and leaving the cage with no broken limbs and full consciousness is impressive.
We saw little of his striking game, but Yakovlev looks like a moderately intriguing project moving forward in the welterweight division.
What's Next for Maia?
It's rare that the UFC matches up a fighter coming off a win with a fighter coming off a loss, but Maia is still a top-10 welterweight who deserves top-10 competition.
Give him Jake Ellenberger, who just lost to Robbie Lawler at UFC 173, and we'll see which man deserves to stay among the welterweight elite.
What's Next for Yakovlev?
Yakovlev needs somebody a little further down the line than Maia. That was just an unfair fight for somebody who was making his Octagon debut.
He was overwhelmed and needs to take on lesser competition next time out in order to slowly ease into the top 10 of the division.
Give him Hernani Perpetuo, who lost his UFC debut against Jordan Mein in April, and let's see who belongs on the big stage.